Why Open Ecosystems Will Win over Closed and Proprietary Technology

Author: David Dobson, Industry Director Retail, Hospitality & Banking, Intel Corporation

Intel Tech
5 min readMay 24, 2022



We’ve all heard about the explosion of data. But with the explosion of data, requires an explosion of companies working in partnership to fuel insights and growth. Nothing seems stable right now. Technology has never been more fragmented. And what customers need now more than ever is stability — a reliable and open ecosystem to help them integrate, interoperate (securely and reliably) and scale technology in a way that works for them.

From the selection of apps supported on your device, to the latest workloads in a datacenter, an open ecosystem takes on different forms in the tech world. At Intel, we see the open ecosystem as vital to our customers. Today we are going to unpack the open ecosystem a little further.

Think of the word village. It, too, is packed with different meanings. Village might mean a huddle of long-abandoned huts you might see in rural Italy. Or a cluster of fashionably remodeled cottages, nearly all of which are now vacation rentals. Or it could mean a community of multi-generational families whose mutual understanding and trust make the community nearly self-sufficient.

Ecosystem is similarly full of meanings. It can be a group of vendors who each contribute some product or service to make your offering accessible to customers. Another example might be the plethora of platform developers, game developers, and peripherals manufacturers that cluster around GPU vendors, or the huge aggregation of electronics, mechanicals, and software suppliers necessary to bring a new car to market. These ecosystems respond to the needs of the vendor at their center.

But an ecosystem can also be a community. In such open ecosystems, members work cooperatively to achieve our customers’ success at scale. The members of an open ecosystem can pool their information to identify categories of customer needs or outcomes. They can agree upon new standards or open platforms, greatly reducing integration issues and redundant work. An open ecosystem can help channel resources to developers’ projects. And using the open platform, members can accelerate integration and testing at scale, so that the end results are already interoperable and market ready.

All of this implies a degree of trust and experience working together — even while competing in the market — that can come only with time and stability. Our open ecosystem is a community who have learned to work cooperatively through open platforms and standards to identify and serve end-user needs.

Figure 1 — Intel Open Retail Initiative Partners

Let’s look at some examples. One in which Intel has been deeply involved is the Open Retail Initiative. This is a global organization of well over a hundred retailers, system integrators, ISVs, OEMs, and solution aggregators who work as a community around a set of open framework. Those standards span retail-floor sensors and displays, the Internet of Things, edge-computing systems, and cloud apps. They are delivering a new generation of retail experiences for shoppers, while providing an open framework into which developers can plug new solutions. The results for retailers range from retail-floor intelligent signage and interactive kiosks to inventory control, loss management, and shopper-behavior extraction, all with minimal development risk, wide choice of vendors and capabilities, and the ability to scale from demonstrations to global deployment.

Another example is the Industry Fusion Foundation. This European community is addressing the challenges of implementing industrial automation at a next level of sophistication and scale — so-called Industry 4.0 — through an open-source, vendor-independent, interoperable set of solutions. Specifically, the organization has developed an open-source reference architecture that reaches from factory floor to cloud, connectors for attaching a huge range of machines, systems, and apps into the architecture, and the orchestration and management tools to permit quick, flexible deployment of all these assets wherever they are needed within the networks.

Figure 2 — Industry Fusion Smart Factory Example

Current projects include incorporation of greater visibility and collaboration for users, digital-twin functionality, and machine-learning capabilities. The result for industrial enterprises, from giant global operations to small-scale shops, will include quick integration of new tools, materials, and processes; enhanced shop-floor management and control; improved employee safety; and the ability to model proposed changes in the cloud without bringing down production. Intel is deeply involved in these efforts.

It is also important to see how communities functions. To observe a mature open ecosystem in action, we can look back at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Even before the scale of human tragedy and economic devastation became apparent, organizations were confronted with a tangle of immediate operational challenges. Organizations had to do their best to protect employees while maintaining essential services and complying with local health regulations.

The open ecosystem of which Intel is a part converged as a body to lean in. In their initial response, individual members working with their customers identified the most critical needs. These included the ability to do body-temperature checks and to track crowding in high-traffic areas to minimize the risk of infection, monitoring of retail-store environments to maintain social-distancing requirements, and resource planning to head off predictable situations such as overcrowded halls or conference rooms.

Community members recognized that many of these services could be provided by — or built upon — existing applications. Working together, community members identified solutions and the quickest route to deploying new capabilities, such as employee health checking and traffic-flow monitoring. Where development or interoperability testing was required, members set to work, in some cases funded by direct investment from Intel. The result was, in remarkably short order, a set of geography-specific catalogs of solutions, leading to at-scale deployment of integrated systems by end users.

A mature open ecosystem is a community that adapts quickly and powerfully to emerging needs, not in response to the interest of one vendor, but through the trust and cooperation of individual members, each focused on the best interest of their mutual customers. At Intel we treasure our decades of experience in our open ecosystem. We see it as the pathway between our technology roadmaps — from new CPUs and accelerators to neuromorphic chips and quantum computers and our end-users’ future successes.

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